Election nears, races heat up

Charlie Cantu, a candidate for County Commissioner, Precinct 2, addresses a crowd of more than 200 at a candidates' forum at the Seekatz Opera House on Monday. Cantu is challenging incumbent Jay Milliken. Photo by Kevin Force.

by Kevin Force, Editor

As the March 7 primary election draws near ­ less than a month away ­ political sparring, spinning and campaigning is at its fullest.

Things have been fairly quiet on the Democratic side, with few candidates running in the heavily-Republican county, although Congressional candidate John Courage did call for incumbent Lamar Smith's resignation of his post on the House Ethics Committee.

Some similar campaigning was on display at different candidates' forums last week within the Republican Party.

Much of the lashing within the party has come from the camp of Nathan Macias, who is challenging Carter Casteel for the state representative seat for District 73.

Macias has openly criticized Casteel for not falling in line with conservative Republican values and has questioned her voting record on a number of issues.

He struck perhaps the biggest chord at a forum on Monday, hosted by the New Braunfels Republican Women at the Seekatz Opera House, questioning Casteel's conservatism and citing her voting record on issues such as abortion, toll roads, homosexuals' right to foster children, embryonic stem cell research and taxation.

Casteel, who did not even mention Macias in her speech, denied being for toll roads and said in a Q-and-A session that she did not vote to toll existing freeways.

Macias supporters were quick to launch an email campaign stating that Casteel lied to the forum about her vote on HB 2702.

"All she could quote was arcane language about number of lanes and all the hocus pocus written into that statute which is full of more holes than Swiss cheese," said Terri Hall, the Regional Director of SA Toll Party.com and a Spring Branch resident. "The bottom line is she voted to allow TxDOT to bulldoze perfectly good freeways and reconstruct them as tollways so they can call them 'new' and charge us a double tax toll to drive on them."

During a luncheon at the Live Oak Grill on Thursday, district attorney candidates Dib Waldrip and Ron Karchmer took swipes at each other. Karchmer, who criticized Waldrip's expense report of a $50 haircut, said that the incumbent needs to step aside, while Waldrip questioned Karchmer's credibility and character.

"He questioned my intellect, my experience, my qualifications and my knowledge of the law. He also called me a half-witted wannabe, and that hurt my feelings. I thought it was three-quarters," Karchmer joked.

Karchmer also responded to Waldrip's speculation as to whether or not he had served as an assistant D.A. in Nueces County, producing a letter of endorsement, and called for a cleaner campaign.

"If Mr. Waldrip wants to continue to disparage me and tell you half truths, he's going to have to do it by himself," Karchmer said.

Either by preparation or reaction, Waldrip's speech on Monday took on an entirely different tone and focused only on himself and his qualifications.

Also engaging in verbal battles last week were Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace candidates William Schroeder and D.L. Schraub.

Schraub said he decided to run for the office when one of his clients approached him about the JP court's closure on Friday afternoons.

Schraub has also been publically critical of Schroeder's approach to collecting outstanding fines imposed by his court. More than $800,000 of fines from the Precinct 1 have not been turned over to the county's law firm contracted to handle collections.

"I do not send my cases to them for collection because I thought there was something wrong and therefore I did not attempt to go along with them," Schroeder said.

He did admit, however, that his office will begin turning over uncollected fines as a result of sanctions being put in place by the Office of Court Administration.

"This is a prime example of an activist judge to me," Schraub said. "(He) interprets the laws the way he thinks they should be. He doesn't believe it should collected, but it's not his job to agree or disagree. It's his job to enforce it."

Canyon Lake realtor Norma Keeton is also a candidate for the Precinct 1 JP seat, and although she didn't name Schroeder specifically, she implied several changes from the practices of the current office. She charged that she would be the only full-time judge, would bring the office hours of the court in line with those of the other precincts, and would not make pronouncements of death by telephone.

The three-legged race for county judge did not carry the same negative echoes as the other races, but both challengers Pete Garcia and Glenn Jackson believe that a change is in order.

"Four more years of Danny is wrong," Garcia told the crowd on Monday. "His leadership has produced six consecutive deficit budgets, spent $9.8 million of our reserves in the last five years, and jeopardized our bond rating.

"Danny has promised you more of the same, and I promise you a change for the better," he added.

Scheel played right into Garcia's charge.

"Four more years of the same? Abolutely, and I'm proud of it," Scheel said.

Scheel addressed the growth in Comal County as his biggest challenge.

"We were at 78,000 (population) in 2000, we're at about 100,000 right now, and we're projected to be at 144,000 in just six more years. That requires preparation. It requires additional law enforcement, additional courts, additional space. It's a lot easier to prepare for those people than to try to catch up after they get here."

Many other candidates addressed the crowd without the heated fanfare. Precinct 2 Commissioner Jay Millikin and challenger Charlie Cantu both took a shot convincing the crowd why they were the best man for the job.

and most all will likely participate in some more upcoming public forums. One is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Garden Ridge Community Center on Monday, Feb. 13, and a second will be held at the GVTC Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15.

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